Two Fervent Liverpool FC Supporters Correspond through the Epic Season That Wouldn't End
by Michael MacCambridge; Neil Atkinson
Pub Date 1 Nov 2021 | Archive Date 1 Nov 2021
Over the course of the 2019–20 season, two longtime Liverpool FC followers wrote to each other about those emotions and experiences. American writer Michael MacCambridge, living in Austin, Texas, is a devoted Liverpool follower. Five thousand miles away, his friend Neil Atkinson, Liverpool resident and a longtime season ticket holder, is the host of the popular podcast The Anfield Wrap.
Each week throughout the historic season, Atkinson and MacCambridge exchanged letters, contemplating Liverpool’s progress, comparing and contrasting their different perspectives on the club and the sport, meditating on the manner in which their shared obsession for Liverpool works its way into nearly every corner of their personal lives, and discussing the differences between how the game is consumed in the United States and the United Kingdom and the role modern media plays in shaping our views of sport.
Their collaboration was both timely and serendipitous, as Liverpool marched toward its first ever Premier League title and its first league title in thirty years, with a charismatic manager and the most entertaining team in the sport. In March, of course, the soccer story was overtaken by the larger story of the COVID-19 pandemic wreaking havoc throughout the world, including sports events. In the course of their correspondence, Red Letters provides a real-time account of the pandemic that threatened the very existence of the season that Liverpool followers had been waiting more than a generation to experience.
Red Letters provides a different way to examine the culture of a worldwide sport and development of a soccer season—game by game, in real time, with hopes and expectations tested and altered as the season progresses to Liverpool’s Premier League championship, with insight from two avid supporters.
“Passionate and perceptive, contemplative and comprehensive, MacCambridge and Atkinson take you on a journey like no other through a season like no other, as hope and excitement give way to frustration and fear. What stands out, though, is not the agony and ecstasy of Liverpool’s title win but the warmth and the wit of the authors as the world changes around them and their team.”—Rory Smith, chief soccer correspondent for the New York Times
“If you care about a club such that your life pulses with the ecstasy and agonies of their fortunes, you’ll devour what Michael MacCambridge and Neil Atkinson have created. Their brilliantly observational correspondence chronicles a season unlike any other, when their beloved Liverpool ended a dark passage of underachievement by dominating the world’s best league, even as the planet was stricken by the plague of COVID-19. Grounded in their obsession in their side’s historic season, through months of global uncertainty, their conversations are a compelling window onto their shared passion and the questions beyond the pitch they so accurately frame.”—Bob Ley, longtime anchor for ESPN’s Outside the Lines
“MacCambridge and Atkinson have revived two dying arts—letter-writing and male friendship—in this literal back-and-forth that feels like eavesdropping on two engaging strangers down at the pub. It evoked for me Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch, Frederick Exley’s A Fan’s Notes, and (given the historic year it chronicles on the pitch and in the world) their biblical First Letter to the Liverpudlians.”—Steve Rushin, author of Sting-Ray Afternoons and Nights in White Castle